A mild and dry winter in 2019-20 was followed by a dry growing season here at Hawks View. Spring was relatively cool, followed by wet conditions leading up to and during flowering. This resulted in difficulties with the grape vines setting fruit in June. Even though the vines set a relatively average number of clusters, we saw high amounts of shatter, smaller berries, and clusters in Pinot noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Gris. Without any fruit thinning, the poor flowering conditions produced the lowest ton per acre yield in the history of the vineyard. A warm but heat-stress free Summer was leading us to what looked like an ideal harvest season. But that was until an extreme and almost unprecedented (1950 and 1933 were similar but still less intense) Eastern-blowing wind event around Labor Day, which was followed by regional fires and smoke for days. The smoke inversion blocking out the sunlight was followed by decreased daytime temperatures which seemed to stall ripening for the rest of September.
The harvest period, with the exception of a few picks for sparkling wine, began in October. The Pinot Noir lots were perfect for making intense red wines. Low yields with ripe skin tannins and concentrated red and blue fruit flavors. The acids in the Pinot Gris and White Pinot were lower than usual, but the flavors coming from those tiny grapes could not have been more optimal. To our delight, the smoke flavors did not emerge from the wines as they moved from the cellar, towards bottles and French oak barrels (it turns out that proximity to the fire has a lot to do with smoke flavor thankfully for us). The quality of the reds and Chardonnay were indeed exceptional, but we will have to end up bottling less than we would have hoped for the vintage. The Rogue and Walla Walla had similar dry conditions, but our vineyard partners there delivered ultimately ripe grapes with great color and heady fruit flavors. In general, I think the vintage will be charactered by precious amounts of balanced and intense wines especially for those lucky enough to be far away from the vintage-defining fires of the Southwestern Willamette Valley.